Oregon and California partner-up to give orphan sea otters new homes!
Two new sea otters arrived this week in Oregon in ice-filled crates as their transport plane touched down first at Newport Municipal Airport to drop off “Oswald,” then onto Portland to drop off “Juno.” Oswald and Juno, two sea otter pups bound for their new homes at Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Oregon Zoo, debarked from the plane with a mammalogist and veterinarian in tow that cared for them during their journey from the Monterey Bay Aquarium south of San Francisco to their new homes in the Beaver State.
Oswald and Juno were each discovered abandoned on beaches along California’s coastline. Oswald was discovrered stranded in November of 2013 and Juno two months later in January 2014. Staff with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program arranged for the rescue of the pups and their transport to Monterey. Sea otter program staff immediately began searching for homes for the two, realizing there were no experienced otters available to rear the pups for release back into the wild. Once homes were found for the young animals they were both deemed non-releasable by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) which made them “adoptable” by qualified institutions.
Once the pups were ready, the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Oregon Zoo teamed up to transport the sea otter pups to the Oregon. The Oregon Coast Aquarium arranged for a flight for both animals on a private plane owned and piloted by Steve Schuster, a Newport local that has a history of helping the Oregon Coast Aquarium transport sea otters. In 2012, the Oregon Coast Aquarium honored his generosity when they named another sea otter that came to Newport from Monterey “Schuster.”
“We all work for the common good to place these animals that would not be able to survive in the wild. Monterey Bay Aquarium rescues and rehabilitates these otters daily, and if release is not an option, organizations like the Oregon Zoo and Oregon Coast Aquarium take these animals and care for them for the rest of their lives,” said Ken Lytwyn, Curator of Marine Mammals for the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Oswald and Juno are busy settling into their new homes behind the scenes. Once they each complete their respective quarantine periods, they will meet the other otters before making their public debuts this summer.
In Portland, “Juno arrived Tuesday night and immediately began exploring,” said Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey, the zoo’s senior marine life keeper. “Within 30 minutes, she was already grooming herself and eating, which is a great sign. She tried capelin for the first time and seemed to enjoy it. She’s active, playful, curious — I can tell she’s going to be a lot of fun.” Eventually, the zoo plans to introduce the youngster to the zoo’s two older sea otters, Thelma and Eddie — both of whom were also rescued in California as pups and deemed non-releasable. “It should be rejuvenating for our older otters to meet this active youngster,” Nicassio-Hiskey said. “We expect Juno will really keep them on their toes.”
Oswald, then known as otter 649, earned notoriety for his juvenile antics as the sixth sea otter ever reared on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. His companion, Gidget, taught him how to groom his coat, swim and dive. Oswald taught his companion the intensive art of caring for a sea otter pup. In time, Gidget will apply the teaching skills she learned with Oswald to show other stranded pups how to survive on their own before they are returned to the wild.
Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Erin Paxton said it’ll be a number of weeks before Oswald joins the rest of the OCA sea otter family and be ready for public viewing.